With talent both on-screen and in the recording booth, Karen Strassman has put together a long list of credits as a television actress and voiceover artist. Recently, she was seen in AMC’s Preacher in the role of Dr. Slotnick. When she’s not busy acting or needs a break from reality, you can find her swimming in a pool or lake or even spending time alone in nature. We chatted with Karen about Preacher, the experience working on the show and her advice to others looking to getting involved with acting.
Cliché: What was the experience like working on Preacher? What attracted you in joining the series?
Karen Strassman: My experience working on Preacher was delightful and exhilarating. No matter how crazy and out there the world of this show might be, and how charactery most characters are, it’s done so well that it still feels so deeply real, human, and grounded. As I watched the series, I completely bought the whole reality and everyone’s humanity within it and got truly involved in their lives. As I was preparing for my episodes, it was exciting to create a character that was extremely fun, quirky, and out there, but also felt as real and believable as all the other characters on the show. That’s such fun stuff for an actor.
Can you describe your character, Dr. Slotnick? Do you relate to her at all?
Dr. Slotnick is a freakishly brilliant, driven, genius German scientist, and although I’m not German, I am part Danish and have family living in some parts of Germany. I’m not terribly adept when it comes to science, and I don’t work for an organization to help create a new Messiah. But, like Lois, I have always been quite passionately obsessed with my work. I am a stubborn perfectionist to a fault and I am sometimes quite overly zealous about things I am into. I have certainly tried very hard to please certain authority figures in my life. So, it was actually pretty easy to bring all these very human parts of me to this fun role.
How did you get involved in voice-over work?
I started doing voiceover in France when I was 20-years-old. I somehow got a job doing voices for a cassette tape for a French magazine created to help kids learn English. I cut my teeth doing any role they threw at me, and it seemed I was pretty good at it. That led to dubbing French movies into English. I was the American voice for Juliette Binoche, Emmanuel Heart, Vanessa Paradis, and many others. From there I started getting cast in a lot of original animation, then video games… and I’ve just been constantly working ever since. I’m a very lucky girl.
How different is that experience for you from acting on screen?
In voiceover, more often than not, you are usually alone in the booth, working with the director, the engineer, and maybe some of the clients on the other side of the booth (unless you are doing a group record for original animation). You have to imagine all of the other characters interacting with you. You have to imagine everything, really – the location, the temperature, the atmosphere, and the other characters emotions. Since the audience can’t see you, you have to let everything come through the voice. But within that world of imagination, you also have a lot of freedom to play characters that you would never get cast in physically. I can play an old grandmother, a tall sexy top model, and a little boy who’s a skateboard pro.
What are some other experiences in your career that you’ve really enjoyed?
I’ve had so many wonderful experiences over the span of my career. Working on Weeds was such a delight. The quirky Jolene Waite was so much fun to play. It was a part that was only supposed to be in one episode, and I guess the producers and writers liked what I did enough in that one episode to keep writing me into other episodes throughout season 7. All of the cast, crew, producers, writers, and directors were all fantastic. I never wanted to leave the set. One night we were shooting way overtime and at about 2 in the morning, Kevin Nealon took out his banjo and started improv-ing songs about everyone there while we were waiting for a lighting change. When we finally wrapped up and they let us go home, I remember being sad and wishing I could have stayed all night.
When did you realize that you were going to pursue acting as a career?
I‘ve been drawn to acting ever since I was a very little girl, making up plays in our basement with my friends, and doing every school play that would cast me. At that time, I dreamed of being reborn as Melissa Gilbert and Laura Ingalls in Little House on the Prairie. When I was 13, I was cast in the role of Helen Keller in a beautiful production of The Miracle Worker. I couldn’t wait to get to the theatre after school for rehearsals, and I never wanted to leave. I blindfolded myself for many of the rehearsals and would spend any extra time trying to find my way around the theatre and imagining what it was like to be blind and deaf. The whole experience was magical, and it was then that I fell irreversibly in love with acting, storytelling, and the empathetic nature of this art. As an aside, I would love to play a blind character again someday. However, at that time, I didn’t think I was pretty enough or talented enough to pursue acting as a career, so I pursued studies in Psychology. It wasn’t until I moved to France at 20-years-old that I realized my passion could become a career, and I’ve been making my living doing what I love ever since.
What’s the best advice you received on acting and who was it from?
Robert Colt (www.RobertColt.com), whose coaching has been a game changer for me and has helped me fall in love with acting all over again said this in an interview:
“When an actor doesn’t trust what’s unfolding spontaneously at the moment and tries to make something happen, they’re in Ego Acting. When they hold back and play it safe with what’s unfolding at the moment they’re in Fear Acting. And the result is being untruthful in both instances which is painful for true actors. Artists thrive in truth and suffer in falsehood.” Robert DeNiro says, “All you can do is be in the moment. When you try to make something big happen it never works. It never works. All you can do is be in the moment. If something’s going to happen it’s going to happen. If it’s not, it’s not… It’s about the persistence of truth… Everything just starts coming together as you trust what’s unfolding in each moment. Have fun and go for the ride. It’s as simple as that…”
What is your advice to others looking to get involved in acting?
My advice to others looking to get involved in acting is to make sure it’s really what you love and yearn to do more than anything else because it is a ruthless business. Be prepared to be rejected over and over again and still find your love for what you do. You will need a vulnerable, beautiful, playful, empathetic heart of a child, but the discipline, persistence, endurance, and maturity of an adult who has lived and sees the bigger picture. Make sure to live the rest of your life fully, travel, experience as much as you can, and love. Find as many ways as possible to give to others and not make life too much about your little self. Find ways to live and experience life as an artist and not as a salesperson.
In addition, don’t take anything personally. In a world of ruthless criticism, commercialism, skepticism, and fear keep baring your heart and soul, humanity, and quirkiness. In a business where you want people to like you, watch your show, cast you in their project, you somehow have to find a way to not care what people think in order to offer of something truly authentic, human, spontaneous, moving, and truly compelling. It’s a huge paradox, and in my mind, this is mastery. I am far from this, but aspire and work toward it every day. I would also add to take not take oneself or what we are doing too seriously either. And for god sakes be a kind, decent human being.
What are some things you enjoy doing outside of acting?
I’m an introvert who masquerades as an extrovert. I love spending time alone or in nature. I love swimming. I swim first thing every morning when I don’t have an early call. I can find a pool, lake, or beach in any city in the world. I also love wonderful deep delicious human conversations with dear friends.
Are you currently working on or will you be working on any future projects?
I can’t speak about anything I’m currently working on because of all the non-disclosure agreement’s I’ve signed on various projects. I’ve got few very cool video games, some cool animated stuff, a big motion capture project, and other things I’ll be shooting in September. I can announce that I have a lead in Tom Six’s new film The Onania Club, an exciting new bold and controversial feature, which will be coming out this year. You can check my website for news as it comes out at www.karenstrassman.com or reach out to me via Twitter and Instagram: @karenstrassman.
Read more Entertainment articles at ClicheMag.com
“Preacher” Star Karen Strassman Talks About Her Life As An Actress and Voice Over Artist. Image Credits: Paul Smith